2016-06-24 / Community News

School board approves transgender policy

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

In their final meeting of the 2015-2016 school year, the board of education passed a policy that will make Scarborough schools much accepting in the fall.

On June 16, the day before the final day of school, the board approved a transgender policy that dictates how transgender and transitioning students should be addressed and accommodated.

The policy, which was built off guidelines from the Department of Education and Department of Justice, was unanimously passed and is designed to create “a learning environment that is safe, and is free from discrimination, harassment and bullying” and aimed at assisting “in the educational and social integration of transgender students in our schools.”

Kelly Murphy, chairman of the board of education’s policy committee, said the policy is designed to be comprehensive and cover any issues that may arise.

“The policy covers more than just restroom (use),” Murphy said. “It’s (about) dress code, names and pronouns, official records. It is much more expansive than just restroom use.”

The policy requires a transgender student – defined as one “whose gender identity or expression is different from that traditionally associated with an assigned gender at birth” – to sit down with his or her parent, building principal, guidance councilor, and possibly social workers, nurses and other staff to develop a plan that is fit for that student. It also gives the individual the freedom to use the restroom, locker room or any other gender specified facilities of the gender they associate with, not the gender they were assigned at birth. The policy also requires staff to comply with the plan and alert the building administrator if the plan is not being followed or the student is in danger or the target of bullying or sexual harassment.

Citing a statistic from the Williams Institute that was recently brought up by Rep. Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, in an oped in a local newspaper that states 41 percent of transgender students attempt suicide, Board of Education member Jackie Perry said it is a topic she takes seriously.

“We have a responsibility to accept all of our children in our schools no matter what they prefer as their gender and no matter what they were assigned at birth. I will always fight for our children. This is only one way I will make sure everyone is treated equal,” said Perry, who did a fist pump when the measure passed.

Lizzie Hobbs, a student representative on the board, said the policy will go a long way in making sure everyone feels safe and comfortable in Scarborough schools.

“I have quite a few friends who are transgender,” she told her fellow board members. “This is possibly one of the most important things we can do for them because a lot of them have felt they have been overlooked.”

The policy, she said, will send a strong message to those students.

“It shows how much we care about the students in Scarborough. I want to thank everyone who worked on this to make my friends feel more comfortable at Scarborough,” Hobbs said.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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